Some groups pointed at the demolition of illegal shanties inside the prison’s maximum security compound as a reason as well as dehydration.
The STAR/Ernie Peñaredondo
‘One inmate dies each day in NBP’
Ralph Edwin Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Manila, Phillipines — An average of one inmate in the New Bilibid Prison dies every day, according to the NBP’s hospital chief.

“(It) is in critical condition… It is more than the universally accepted computation,” Henry Fabro told reporters on the sidelines of the Asian and Pacific Conference on Prison Health in Makati City yesterday.

Fabro said the worldwide standard is at 0.2 percent of the population.

Inside Bilibid, the figure is at 0.5 percent, which is equivalent to one inmate dying every day.

He said this may be mainly attributed to the prison system’s poorly equipped hospital and an astonishingly low number of medical professionals. There are only 13 physicians attending to more than 47,000 prisoners, across seven penal colonies of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“The basic problem… I think would be the hospital, it is poorly equipped. That is why we are asking help from other agencies,” Fabro said.

“Imagine, we only have four doctors who are going around four shifts. In fact, we are going to talk to Secretary of Health (Francisco) Duque to ask for doctors… Maybe, they could give us some,” he added.

Despite this, Fabro said there is no unusual increase in deaths.

Earlier, inmate deaths had been recorded inside the NBP.

Some groups pointed at the demolition of illegal shanties inside the prison’s maximum security compound as a reason as well as dehydration.

Both were denied by the BuCor.

Fabro also said they are trying to erase the issue of “hospital-pass-for-sale” scheme from the minds of inmates.

He added that the BuCor has started to increase the outpatient consultations to 80 per day, from 10 to 20 per day implemented previously.

For jails of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology nationwide, the mortality rate stands at 300 to 800 per year starting 2015, according to BJMP medical officer Paul Borlongan.

“Compared (with the) international standard, it is not that far off. I am not saying it is acceptable… but we cannot deny that some are dying,” Borlongan said.

He added that the congestion of jails affects the health of the inmates, but the facilities are being improved “little by little.”

There are only 12 medical practitioners and two psychiatrists inside BJMP facilities, according to Borlongan.

The BJMP, he said, currently has some 1,200 medical staff in 478 facilities across the country.

The bureau, he added, is making sure that each jail should have at least one nurse on duty.

“(Our) biggest challenge is addressing the health perspective, we want to maintain how to provide health services to (persons deprived of liberty) or to the inmates, equal or equitable like the community,” Borlongan said.

Call for probe

In a related development, the BuCor welcomed the resolution filed by Sen. Leila de Lima calling for a probe on the supposed deaths of 29 inmates at the NBP.

The detained senator filed Senate Resolution 208, urging a thorough investigation on the deaths of the inmates within a 17-day period last October.

The deaths, according to De Lima, were “due to lack of basic necessities and proper medical treatment.”

In an ambush interview with reporters yesterday, BuCor chief Director General Gerald Bantag lauded the senator’s effort.

“What the senator filed is (a) good (move), so we can know the truth,” Bantag said.

He added he wants to open the BuCor as much as possible to show they are not hiding anything.

Bantag confirmed that indeed, there are deaths among inmates that are old, although he was not able to confirm the figure.

He also admitted that there is much to be done on the situation of inmates inside the national penitentiary.

“There are a lot of sickly (inmates) inside. So we invited all agencies, non-government agencies there to help us, not just on their release but also on issues on health,” Bantag said.

Meanwhile, the BuCor chief also called for a faster review of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) following the reported walkout of some 46 inmates at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan.

A large number of the inmates remain at large.

Bantag said those who returned to the fold of the law after the pronouncement of President Duterte are still inside the jails.

“I am asking other government agencies to help speed up the computation (of the GCTA). Because, if you look at it… there are a lot (of inmates),” he said.

Bantag, however, said there is no overcrowding in jails because the returnees are placed in designated areas.

 

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